Armoured Up

Archive for the tag “Prayer”

He Hears…He Sees…He Moves

I’m doing a bible study on prayer and in it, the author writes about the blind man who called out to Jesus.  I paused for a rabbit trail to think about this man who had heard about Jesus, who heard He was passing through and waited. The noise of the crowd told him Jesus was near and so he cried out for Jesus, and then cried even louder when he was hushed. Jesus’ response before He responded stood out to me…four words caught my attention. “And Jesus stood still…” He hears.  Mark 10:49 KJV

In a similar situation, He encountered a woman with a condition which had been plaguing her for years….one which had zapped her energy, depleted her funds and dirtied her name, leaving her homebound and hopeless. She too had heard about Jesus and took a chance, knowing that any attention would likely get her in trouble; however, she knew she needed to reach out to Jesus…just a touch would make a difference. Jesus’ response before He responded stood out to me. “Jesus turned and saw her…” He sees. Matthew 9:22

How is it that in a throng of people pushing and pulling and jockeying for His attention, He was able to hear Bartimaeus? How is it possible with so many tugging at Him and pressing into Him, He was able to sense her touch? What caused Him to move on behalf of those who could do nothing for Him, who had nothing to offer? It was compassion…Compassion moved Jesus, but we cannot overlook the fact that it was faith which stopped Him and caused Him to turn around in the first place.

I’m encouraged knowing that in the midst of noise, be it in the world around me or in my circumstances, He hears the cry of His daughter and stands still to hear my heart. I’m encouraged knowing that He is not too busy to turn to the sound of my voice; to direct His attention to me; to show Himself strong on my behalf…and so I will wait….as He moves.

I’m encouraging you today to cry out, call out, step out, reach out, no matter what, in spite of whatever, and know that the God of compassion, God of mercy, God of comfort is waiting to hear your voice today, waiting for you to reach out, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. You are His son…You are His daughter!

He hears…He sees…He moves.

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” Psalm 116:1-2 NLT

Invisible

New York City Tops Nation In Income InequalityNever have I felt more invisible than after I delivered my second child and spent an afternoon at the mall with my gorgeous girlfriend.  (Talk about self sabotage.) Here I am around 4 weeks post delivery with a nursing tent hanging around my neck to conceal the wet marks on my chest looking like bulls eyes, chasing my busy 22 month old, while keeping my newborn shushed….a red hot smoking mess I was.  Here’s the invisible part, because I’m sure everyone and their relatives witnessed my “hotness” as I was chasing my boy, trying not to make the evening news!!!

We walked into a store and my friend watched my kiddies as I shopped.  I was struck and rather hurt at the non responsiveness of the store clerk.  It’s always been super easy for me to strike up a conversation with anyone and if we talk long enough, there are sure to be some chuckles…not this time.  This chick looked right through me and was about business…until my gorge girlfriend appeared with her purchases.  She was completely engaged and helpful.  I noticed and I realized for the first time that my outside was the obstacle to her acquainting herself with my inside.  I thought of that incident this morning as I was exiting the grocery store in a rush since I had gone for milk and ended up shopping for the week.

I saw him before I heard him.  He looked tired and dry.  He had his hand out and no one noticed him.  He was invisible.  As I passed by he asked if I had some change and I told him I might.  He took a seat in the shade and didn’t even look to see whether I was returning.  He, no doubt familiar with rejection, had no expectation that I would return.  I did and I asked him what he would do with the money I had in my hand.  He never looked at my hand, but he did look into my eyes and told me his intentions.  I asked him if I could pray for him and he said yes and bowed his head.  I laid my hands on him and sensed him relax after a few seconds.  As I prayed and spoke the word over him, he rocked back and forth as if I was singing him a lullaby.  That touched me so!  He looked up when I said amen with such appreciation and as I pressed the money into his hands he said “thank you, please continue to pray for me.”  “I will,” I said.

I was once corrected by someone I looked up to as a person who was well versed in the word.  He told me I should never sow my seed in ground where there would be no return…and that included giving to those outside of the faith.  That always checked me and so the one time a down and out friend asked for money, I sat next to her and ministered the word to her before I blessed her financially.  Then I realized, Jesus never expected folks to clean up first  in order to receive forgiveness, healing, etc. so why should I?  They will know we are His disciples, not by our prayers, our gifts, our good works, but by our love.  Love does…it moves…it acts!  I have no idea what Mykel will do with the money I gave him and that is not for me to judge.  I simply asked him so that he could hear himself respond and I pray that, for his own good, he was telling the truth.

Today, it came back to me why I was allowed to experience that sadness on that day.  I was made to experience in a snapshot what many feel for a lifetime.  Would you stop…would you at least stop long enough to extend a hand, say a prayer, acknowledge someone’s existence?  I’m praying today for the invisible; that they experience a healing touch and that they come to the knowledge that He sees…He hears…He moves…and most times it’s through people!

A Chance Encounter…A Truth Revealed

UnknownI was excited as I entered the bakery prepared to order the cake for my goddaughter’s baby shower.  It had been a busy day as I checked off my to do list so I welcomed a break to chat up the cake decorator whose daughter attends school with mine.  During our conversation, she asked whether my daughter would be returning to FB for 8th grade in light of all that was going on with the 7th graders.  Huh?  I had no idea what she was talking about as my stomach did a roller coaster drop.  “Oh yeah,” she continued – “there are girls who have been cutting themselves and some who are no longer eating who have to be supervised during lunch hour so they can eat.”  My look of surprise caused her voice to drop and she drew back slightly which caused me to lean in and press the issue.  “Names…give me names,” I said.  And sadly she gave me two names I instantly recognized as close friends of my daughter.  My mind wandered to the times recently that my daughter has skipped a meal or two or has moved the food on her plate around leaving it mostly untouched.  I then recalled the many times she has come home from school a little sad or quiet and now I’m not alarmed…I’m irritated!  I’m not irritated with my daughter, I’m bothered by the administration at the school who bombards my mailbox with emails trumpeting the many instances of scabies, lice and the like, but fail to give parents a heads up regarding behavior that our girls are exhibiting which could affect (if not addressed) those girls who are not involved directly, but are on the sidelines being infected.  Ugggghh!!!  “Lord, help me handle this one.”

As I drive home I sensed a peace that my daughter is not directly involved and I am once again in awe of the Holy Spirit who has been showing me how to pray for my daughter all along; who had arranged that meeting at the bakery because He knew that I must take steps now to protect my girl, to gain her trust, to place a little separation between her and her friends as they continue to heal.  I ask the Lord for help.  I ask for His wisdom and peace as I approach my child with this new found information and I ask Him to guard me from being irritated with her for not sharing what she knows if she knows.

Since my children were around 3 or 4, I’ve been talking to them about bad touch, good touch, stranger danger, good secrets, bad secrets, etc.  I’ve talked extensively as they’ve matured about friends and trust; we’ve discussed the importance of knowing when to bring an adult into confidence for a situation that may be too big for them to figure out.  Clearly, my daughter needs a refresher course, I’m thinking.

The minute she gets in the car, I just about forget how I’ve prayed.  I tell her I’ve heard some disturbing news and then I blurt out…”what do you know about the girls who are cutting themselves and not eating.”  I know….smooth, right?  Her eyes get wide and tear up and I continue my smooth execution by asking her if she’s involved.  My heart is thumping in my ears as she turns over her wrists and shows me and says “no, mom.”  I hear the Holy Spirit screaming for me to shut up and so I do.

We get home and she follows me into the kitchen and as I take a deep breath, I hug her and remind her that I love her, am on her side and there is nothing she can do that can change my love for her.  I tell her that she needs to trust me so that I could help her.  She’s crying now and once again assures me that she is in no way involved; that the girls involved have been in this tailspin since early this year when the school found out.  All of the girls are being counseled, their parents are aware and the reason she has kept that secret is because she was being loyal to her friends who were ashamed and asked her not to tell anyone.

She then proceeded to name each girl and it broke my heart to see her cry as she shared the names.  I wrote each name down and my heart broke as I recognized each name.  She hesitated and said there’s one more and this time she put her hands over her face as I held my breath.  It was her best friend.  Her tears slipped through her fingers and I felt her body relax as I held her.  I’m sure she felt my body relax also.  She was finally able to let go of that secret and I was able to exhale.  I promised not to treat her friends differently and at that point I was not about to lecture her about anything.  I just held her and reminded her what a loyal friend she was.  I told her I wished she would have shared with me so that she did not have to carry this burden alone.  My blessed girl said she has been praying for her friends and begging God to heal them; that she never had a desire to hurt herself because she has no emotional issues and she also knows that her body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  (I almost cried when I heard her say that.)  I took her hand in mine and we placed them over the names I had written down and I prayed for each girl by name.  As she dried her tears, she assured me that everyone was doing better.  She knew a lot about both disorders…no doubt had Googled about them, since she used some technical terms.  The times she had no appetite or was sad coming from school were times that her friends were struggling either at home or at the hand of their peers who were judging them.  I believe her.

I’m proud of my girl for standing up for and with her friends; for being loyal to them; for praying for them and acting as counselor; for not caring that she too was being judged by the “theys.”  It blesses me when I recall how over the top she celebrated her best friend for her birthday..how she emptied her piggy bank and dipped into my wallet in order to make her friend’s birthday special because she wanted to see her smile…she loves her smile!

My girl and I have spent the last week snuggled up, having tea and talks and many laughs.  She has told me on more than one occasion that she loves and trusts me and feels closer to me since she’s told me.  I’m grateful!

Once again, this piece points to the importance of the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives.  He is our teacher, our guide, our comforter, our revealer, our wisdom, our peace.  I’m praying today for our youth…our daughters.  I pray a hedge of protection around them and pray that no weapon formed against them shall prosper; that they would be delivered from the hand of the enemy and set on a course which would be pleasing to the Lord; I pray that their appetites would be for that which honors God and that they would respect themselves and each other.  I pray that they would get a revelation of how much the Lord loves them; how they are fearfully and wonderfully made; how great their purpose is; how there is hope and peace in their future; I pray for their parents..for peace in their households; and a greater knowledge of and relationship with the Lord and their children….in Jesus’ name.  Amen and so be it!

A Foolish Mentor…A Wise Mentor…And a Mentee Who Knows the Difference

Mentoring is a dynamic relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in her/his life. – John Mallison, author of Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders

My children remain in the “train up a child” phase of their upbringing (I dare say they may always be in that phase), but I’ve noticed my husband and I sliding more and more into the role of mentor to them. There’s still a whole lot of correction, but it seems the training, encouraging, teaching aspect has gotten deeper; the conversations more profound and heartfelt. When there is a need for correction I recognize the importance of treading softly over their heart so as to not kill their spirit. Being constructive, not condemning…adding some sweetness to an area of difficulty during correction to keep their heads up and in the game. That takes skill because I could be a bit passionate and semi dramatic (well more than semi) – and one of my cherubs is sensitive and requires my approval while the other is built to play poker! Mentoring can kill a spirit…this I know for sure.

I was a party to a relationship (strange way of phrasing that, I know) that had the underpinnings of a mentor/mentee deal. After knowing her from a distance, I had an opportunity to get to know her up close finally. I liked her from far away and grew to care deeply for her as I got to know her more intimately. I would have done just about anything for her (and just about did), always gladly. I defended, encouraged, prayed for, covered and served, expecting nothing in return. I thought this was a forever friend until the wheels came off the bus sending the bus careening out of control. (I told you I’m dramatic, right)? hehe

Why am I suddenly hearing the music to a Temptations song (Papa was a Rolling Stone)? There was something in the air during that time, and our conversation turned into accusations being hurled at me..instead of being asked questions, I was being told about something I had done, places I had been, people I had been with; my motives were being questioned and I was compared to people from her past whose actions were determined to be shady and unworthy of trust. I was stunned and couldn’t even form my thoughts in a way to present a coherent defense. I squeaked out a few words and the conversation ended with a knife and a plunge. I was told I was being “corrected” and then accused of having lost my prayer edge. (Oh man, them there was fighting words to me.) Somehow nothing that was said was more hurtful than that. I was sentenced to prayer and given times to do it. Um…huh? Here’s the part where the Lord just closed my ears to the rest of what was being said…He does that sometimes to protect me (or maybe the other party:)! Thanks, Lord. I stepped away from that assault conversation knowing that what had just occurred was not constructive and so not healthy; it was not correction…it was an attack, straight up and the accusations…all of them were false. The only thing I took away from that beat down conversation was that I, in fact, needed to pray…pray that I could get away from the situation as quickly as possible with no casualty count.

I was reminded of this incident this past week when I ran into a woman the Lord used to help me become the woman warrior I proudly am today. Someone who embraced me, poured into me, encouraged me, corrected me (not attacked and insulted me); promoted me in ministry…someone who believed that God’s hand was on me. I saw her and just about cried as I made my way to her. We hugged and held each other and hugged some more and after class we gravitated toward one another again and caught up, promising not to lose contact again and hugging some more.

Seeing Mrs. Bishop reminded me that I have been blessed with some rich relationships, strategically placed in my path to push me along in my destiny. Women who have taken the time to speak life into me; women who have seen in me what I probably would not have seen as clearly; who have celebrated my rowdiness and have loved me enough to reel me in. Strong women…no nonsense women. Those who taught me how to be quiet enough to hear the Lord; who taught me about the importance of submission; how vital a teachable spirit was. I knew the difference between correction for growth and correction as a weapon and I learned that under Mrs. Bishop.

I clearly recall telling the Lord that I would serve where the need was greatest…”Lord, use me,” I said. Well, shortly after that declaration I was approached by a leader asking me if the Lord had been speaking to me about serving in the youth ministry, where the need was great. “Uh, that would be a no,” I said and quickly high tailed my way outta there. I felt bad enough to call her when I got home and left her a message saying that I would do it if she really needed me. I didn’t hear back from her…Whew!!! I thought! I went before the Lord one more time and said “okay Lord, the next time I’m approached I’ll submit…I won’t seek a position, Lord…You’ll have to drop it in my lap, okay..in Jesus’ name.” That Saturday as I was running out of church leaving church after a women’s fellowship (I wasn’t the hang around and fellowship type:) I was followed by one of the female ministers who said “Mrs. Britt, you need to serve in the prayer room. There will be training next Saturday..report to Mrs. Bishop.” “Uh, yes ma’am”..and so I began my time of service in the prayer room under the leadership of Mrs. Bishop.

It took no time for me to realize that this was my calling and before long I found myself being promoted to “lead counselor” where soon my leadership-ability would be tested…my ability to make a judgment call and then deal with the consequences of that call (could I handle correction?) Would I pass the test? After service one cold and rainy night I was met in the prayer room by a woman who was desperate for prayer. During our conversation she divulged that she no longer wanted to live and the more she spoke, the more I realized that this situation was way over my head. I looked around and found that I was alone in the room, so in the absence of counsel, I made a split second decision to call for our Pastor who was steps away (something we had been told never to do). As I was preparing to leave that night Mrs. Bishop caught up to me and laid me out. Correction wasn’t even the word for the tongue lashing she gave me. I took it, apologized for overstepping my boundaries and walked away confused because I knew that I had heard from the Lord to consult with Pastor. I left that night deciding not to take offense at the way I was spoken to and I felt the peace of God. I saw Mrs. Bishop a few days later and after service, she approached me and knelt down next to where I sat. She took my hands and looked me in the eyes and asked me to forgive her for the way she had spoken to me. She told me that I had heard from the Lord and that I had made the right call and that Pastor had acknowledged the seriousness of the situation in that had he not intervened, there was a great chance that that woman would have done harm to herself that night. It took great humility for her to apologize and I loved her more than ever at that moment. She and I grew even closer after that day and when she became President of the women’s fellowship, she asked me to be her Vice-President.

The lessons I learned from my mentor were invaluable, many which have remained with me. How important it is to be humble (not to think highly of oneself); how freeing it is to submit, to yield; how empowering it is to forgive and seek forgiveness; how valuable it is to remain teachable and correctable; how vital it is to know when you have heard from the Lord and to stand your ground; how necessary it is not to allow those who lead you to break your spirit.

I was so grateful to the Lord for having Mrs. Bishop and I cross paths again. One of the women I lead in small group witnessed our “love fest” and approached us and after I introduced her to the woman who was instrumental in teaching me how to pray, she said some really nice things about me, to which Mrs. Bishop responded…”Arlene had it in her all the time…God is using her.” That was amazing coming from her…it was real coming from her…I believed it coming from her. Thank God for true mentors!

“It is essential that mentors be loving enough to correct (Proverbs 27:5-6) and caring enough to affirm (Hebrews 10:24).”

Why Would God Allow That?

“Why would God allow that to happen?”  That to me is the most difficult question I’ve been asked as a Christian.  It’s easy to respond with the typical, “God’s ways are not our ways;” “God is sovereign;” “The mysteries belong to God;” or even “I have no idea, ask God” – each response acceptable but the day I fielded this question, I knew that any of those responses wouldn’t fly with this broken, young Christian woman struggling to find her way as a new believer.  I knew her continued relationship with the Lord hung precariously on whether I’d be able to offer some kind of clarity to something that had hurt her so deeply and threatened to drive a wedge between her and the Lord.

And so I sat in my kitchen with Elizabeth as she flat ironed my hair, chatting away.  The conversation soon turned serious as she grew comfortable enough to drop her guard, allowing me access to a situation which threatened to alter her perception of the love of God.  I began to pray as her story spilled out….

Elizabeth was a single mother struggling to make ends meet.  Her ex-husband was paying child support which she greatly relied on, although it was still barely enough to sustain her and their daughter.  He used child support as leverage in order to get his way at every turn.  He was due to pick his daughter up on a Friday and didn’t show up when he said he would so Elizabeth put her down for the night.  The phone rang at around 9:00p.m. or so and it was him saying he would be picking her up by 10:30.  Elizabeth explained that their daughter was already in bed and he could pick her up early the next day.  He grew belligerent and insisted that he be allowed to at least see her and after a shouting match, Elizabeth relented.  She hung up the phone angry that she had given in, and feeling uneasy about him coming over.  When he arrived his motives were made clear to Elizabeth when soon after he gained entrance, he began to interrogate her regarding her male friendships.  Their exchange became violent, first with a push, which escalated to a slap and further escalated with her being raped by him.  No, she didn’t press charges…she still relied on his support and he was her daughter’s father, but imagine the shock and then utter devastation to discover that as a result of that act of violence, she was pregnant again.  There was no way she could afford another child and the thought that this child was unwelcomed pierced her heart.  She considered abortion as an alternative but before doing so, she went to her church for counsel, where she received the most ungodly counsel imaginable.  She was told that since this child was not conceived in love, it would be okay for her to terminate the pregnancy.  She left that session as confused as ever; however as confused as she was, she just knew that advice was wrong.  Unfortunately, stress did what her conscience forbid and she miscarried that baby, which took care of her immediate “problem,” while leaving her hanging on the ledge where her faith and trust in God were concerned…and here I was at the end of her story handing her tissue, poised to field the most difficult question ever!  “If God loves me, why would He allow that to happen to me?”

While she was speaking, I was praying,  seeking and inquiring of the Lord how best to respond to his daughter.  I asked her simply if she at any time had a “feeling”– church folk call it an “unction,” that she should stick to her decision not to allow him to come over that night.  “Yes,” she said.  “Did it get stronger when he appeared at your door?”  She said that by the time he appeared at the door, she was downright scared to open it.  I explained to her that I believe that was the Lord speaking to her…warning her… through that “feeling” and through her fear to open the door.  She was pensive for a few minutes and truthfully, with every fiber within me, I believed I told her correctly, but  still held my breath waiting for her reaction.  She accepted that explanation.  I also showed her how on point she was to second guess the “advice” she was given by the church counselor and explained to her how God was speaking to her in that situation.  I encouraged her telling her that God loves her; He’s speaking all the time and though she may not have heeded his warning that one fateful night, she does hear from Him, as evidenced by her decision not to terminate her pregnancy.

God is always speaking and warning, but if we don’t have “ears to hear,” then He’s speaking to Himself.  Elizabeth floated in and out of my life just that quickly and I think of her often, hoping that she’s been able to strengthen her relationship with the Lord.  She is a trophy of His grace and I pray that she is lifting His name up and drawing other women, who like her have faced difficult times, have made difficult choices, but can say that God loved them enough to show them how to be slow to speak and quick to listen; how to be led by His Spirit; how to trust Him for all that is lacking; how to rely on Him, His strength, His wisdom, His power to sustain and maintain them.

“For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.”  Psalm 117:2 NIV

A Perfectly Woven Web, Part II

You can catch up by clicking here and reading Part I –https://armouredup.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/a-perfectly-woven-web/

I couldn’t have been happier seeing Mary come out of the grocery store pulling her luggage, a look of uncertainty in her eye.  Her outward look matched mine; however, I wore mine on the inside.  We embraced and she confessed that she woke up that morning uncertain that she would be joining us and was close to canceling.  “I’m so glad you came,” is what came out of my mouth, but what I was thinking was, if she had cancelled, I would have also.  We boarded the bus warily, I’m sure each of us skeptical for different reasons…she, never being around so many Christian women in so intimate a setting and I in the midst of healing after having my trust breached (once again) by Christians.  We pull off, eyebrows raised, destination known, future uncertain…with only God knowing what the condition of our hearts would be on the ride back home.  During the ride I pointed out Rashayna and told her that I wanted to introduce them that weekend.  She stared at her for a while and said she looked so familiar to her.  We settled in and chatted the rest of the way about nothing and everything.  We arrived and were given our room assignments and instructions to meet in the dining room.  We met our other roommates, a sister who had recently discovered she was expecting after the devastating loss of child born extremely premature just a few months prior and our fourth roommate was a woman I had never met, but was strangely drawn to with a story which would prove to blow back all of our hair.  She was one of the speakers and all I knew about her was that she had a story!!  The Weaver was busy weaving…

After dinner, we gathered in our meeting room.  I found seats for us and held my breath as the program began with worship.  I so wanted her to be comfortable and I was straining to focus as our first speaker took the microphone; opened up in prayer and began to talk about the many veils we wear as women to mask our feelings.  <“Breath, Arlene, she’s talking to you,” is what I kept hearing…”Let Me handle Mary and you just receive.  I am God, you know.”>  Note to self and the reader….Uh, God is God and we are not!  How refreshing is that??? – With an exhale, I began the process of entering in that rest I so needed, casting my care and Mary over to Him and guess what?  It works!  I spotted Mary taking page after page of notes.  Our next speaker talked about the labels we wear as women; some self-imposed, some inherited, some given to us, some of which stick and alter our perspectives, our choices, our decisions. Was that a tear I saw Mary wipe away or was that mine blocking my vision?  The program closed and a spontaneous decision was made for all of us to take a walk to a fire pit where our weekend’s leader kicked down “discomfort’s door” and with transparency that later Mary would say moved her beyond belief, she welcomed us into her pain and floored us with the details of what was currently raging in her personal life, threatening to prove that God had forgotten her and her family.  That opened up the door to many other women sharing intimate details.  I noticed that Mary had sat with Rashayna and they had been chatting.  I sat off to the side  praying that Mary would get up and unmask the enemy giving her an opportunity to disarm him in the company of some powerful women. Just as our time that first night as a group was coming to an end…the cold becoming a bit much and just as I was pleading to the Lord for her to raise her hand, Mary did just that and with the strength that I saw in our leader just moments before, she stood up, introduced herself and poured out what she had shared with me, ending her introduction with something like, “I’m not sure exactly why I’m here and I don’t know if I’ll ever believe the way you all do, but I’m here,” and that, my friend, is all that God needed to hear!

We retired to our rooms, some too amped to stay behind closed doors and us four opting  for a more intimate setting in our room.  Kim, the woman I was so drawn to began to share a little of her testimony.  I noticed her peace, how beautifully she spoke…both gently and confidently, with so much ease.  Mary, who is as smart as a whip, and Kim began engaging as I listened.  Kim answered some pretty difficult questions with such practicality and with a deftness I hadn’t seen in a while.  She too, had miscarried her baby just six weeks prior and would be sharing her story.  She hesitantly shared that she had a picture of her 12 week old baby and asked if we wanted to see.  She also wanted our opinion as to whether it would be too shocking to share as part of her story.  God worked it out that our fourth roomie was fast asleep and missed our conversation altogether.  Kim shared the picture of her baby and she just beamed as she showed us.  That picture would prove to change Mary’s mind regarding the horror of abortion.  God…on the move even up to the time we turned our lights out and said goodnight.  I’m sure Mary had a lot going on that she was processing, as I fell asleep thinking about Kim and her amazing faith.

I have asked Kim’s permission to share her testimony, one which she so powerfully shared with us on the next day, which concluded with a letter she had written to her baby the day after she miscarried, along with the picture she took of her baby.   Kim’s response to my request was “Of course.  Anyone who values your writing, I’m confident will value what God has and is doing through that letter and photo.  It’s funny that you bring up Mary…when this woman who I did not know (with wavering faith) looked at the photo and said, ‘I don’t think I’m Pro-Choice anymore,’ I knew God was going to do great things with this.  I trust whatever you decide.”  Here is a link to that letter and photo.  http://wynottme.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/dear-baby/

The next day Mary woke up with a lightness to her.  After breakfast, we met once again to hear our sisters speak on topics varying from dealing with envy and strife to one of my personal favorites…the testimony given by the former Miss Alabama and powerhouse woman of God about faith and the word and how to wield it while God works in accordance with it.  We took a break for some quiet time with the Lord, after which we would have lunch, some free time and then back for the beginning of Mary’s long-awaited breakthrough…when Rashayna would share what appeared to be a message prepared just for Mary’s ears.

Rashayna has a soothing voice which has a buttery or velvet-like texture to it and she began speaking from the back of the room as a video played.  She showed the Lifehouse skit “You’re All I Need,” which tells the story of a young girl having found Jesus, only to be wrestled away by the demons of her past, and the fight which ensues and ultimate victory as Jesus breaks through to win her back.  Rashayna shared her message with the precision of  a surgeon and I knew without a doubt that this message was the most important message that Mary would hear that weekend…this would be the message which she would never forget and later, Mary would confirm that to be the case.  At the end of Rashayna’s message, prayer was offered and as I opened my eyes, there was Mary making her way forward.  Of course I began directing traffic in my head saying….”no, don’t go that way, go to the right, towards Rashayna…no stop!”  Another sister reached Rashayna before Mary could, but God had a better plan.  As the evening drew to a close, after many more tears, it was time to head back for the night.  Mary said she wanted to stay behind for a minute.

A minute turned into at least 2-3 hours as Rashayna swooped in and spoke to her in a language only they recognized, their past beliefs, experiences and circumstances being eerily similar.   Mary met her match in Rashayna who is extremely intelligent with the most tender heart.  Rashayna was firm, tough as nails and determined not to allow Mary to wear her out with her questions and stubbornness.  One of my favorite lines that the Lord dropped into Rashayna for her to deliver was one which gave Mary pause to think about and for which she had no response.  It went something like this – “The philosophies and beliefs you have, have gotten you to this point.  They are no longer serving you and the lifestyle you are striving for.  It is time to establish new philosophies and beliefs based on the Truth.”   Can’t you just hear that “ZING” where you are?   Just as we were wondering aloud where Mary was, she appeared at the door with a tear-stained face, red nose, looking like she had been in a fight and had lost!  haha. Rashayna followed her in looking pretty spent as well.  She told her to tell us what she had just done.  It took her a minute to form her words, but she said it and when she did I could have just fallen out again, but I kept my composure as I heard her say, “I gave my heart to Jesus…I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”  I went to sleep that night with the biggest smile and with a heart filled with gratitude…in awe at how God had moved and planned and orchestrated so many circumstances, situations and events in order to make Himself known to one, while healing the heart of another.  (My journey to healing began on the zipline, which I shared a while back in my blog titled, “Zipline to Freedom.”)

Our final morning together, Mary got dressed up in her Sunday best and I asked her (although I knew the answer) why she was wearing heels.  She said, “I’m going to church…I think I can make the 1:00 service when we get back.”  hehehe  One of the last things I said to her the night before was that she should prepare for a bumpy ride, since the enemy is not happy at all about losing one of his soldiers and those words were prophetic.  Soon after she arrived at church that day, she received a message from back home that her mom was being hospitalized and it was serious.  Mary’s first text to me was a prayer request.  Here’s what she wrote…”Just got a text…my mom is in the hospital.  My dad, sis and mom r in such fear. I’m at service and will stay here then call my family. What r some scriptures that I can pray for my mom. I don’t feel equipped with the bible and jesus and I feel I will be on a plane to Chicago by tomorrow.”   God was wooing her back to her family, the family she had disengaged from for years.  She was in Los Angeles…as far away as possible from her former life and the crippling pain she had run from seven years before.  She arrived in Chicago with her notes from the weekend which she used to strengthen herself and her mom.  Here’s another text she sent me giving me an update.  “…The good thing is she is asking for jesus to help her and he is right here with me…I prayed over her when I first got here but I now need to do it again and feel confident without doubt.”  God moved on her mom’s behalf.  Mary made the decision to move back to Chicago to pick her life back up and move forward.  She has found a church and is serving and just recently shared with me that her mother, sister and aunt have all received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

A couple of weeks ago she was in town and she and I met with Rashayna over lunch and I was able to rest my eyes on a miracle.  While she spoke, I marveled once again at how far she had come, recognizing that the Lord was still doing a work in her in order to complete His “takeover” of every stronghold that attempts to linger.  I sat back staring at the two of them visiting the memory of what I just wrote about and as I write this I am teary once again at the lengths our Heavenly Father will go to in order to prove His unfailing love.  As life will have it, Mary is back in Chicago, Rashayna and her family are packing to move to another state and here I remain amazed that for that moment back in February our lives merged and what began as a favor for a friend (Victoria) became a story woven so beautifully, so intricately that no one person could ever take the credit for…for it was the Master Weaver at work behind it all.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!” Psalm 36:7 NIV

A Perfectly Woven Web

When God has His sights set on someone, there’s no changing His mind.  He will move heaven and dip into hell to free the one who’s lost; He’ll leave the 99 to go after the 1 and He’ll use you to do it.  I received a prayer request about a lost dog and I found myself praying like never before that Comet would be found.  “Lord, show Yourself strong on behalf of this situation; prove that You have heard their cry and bring back Comet.”  Well, He heard; He moved and Comet is back at home.  I revisited this prayer request and once again marveled at its request-or.  I smiled as I recalled how God put us together, once again recalling with amazement the perfectly woven web He created…too perfect to be regarded as coincidence.  So perfect, it could only be God!!

Earlier this year, I received a 911 call from Victoria, a sister from church, about her friend (who had just started attending our church) who had absolutely stretched her to the point where she felt her counsel would be fruitless.  She said she called me because of the counsel I had given her in the past and she looked up to me, etc. etc…you see where this is going too, huh?  She wanted to know if I knew “someone” who could minister to this fiery little Puerto Rican.  Victoria knew exactly what she was doing, but as I listened I wondered if I would be up for this challenge, since I was still licking my wounds from a hurt I had sustained.  (God saw this as a perfect opportunity for me to finally disengage from my pity party…hearing myself encourage someone else using His word would no doubt shake me out of my funk.)  Of course, I took her number and called her and we spoke for quite a while and though she quietly listened, I felt that I needed to see her and sensed a bit of urgency since Victoria informed me that she was off to see a “spiritual healer” later that week.  I switched some things around and met her at Starbucks where we met over coffee, tears and transparency.  She released a whole lot about herself, her past, her present and her uncertain future, all pointing to someone who was desperate, scared and wanting to change…needing to change, but not having a clue where to begin.  As she was talking there was a familiarity about her.  I figured it was that we were both Puerto Rican…both fast talkers (not in the shady way) and I knew all about the fire I was picking up from her…that stubbornness…strength…loyalty…genuineness…love of family.  Let the weaving begin…

I wanted to switch channels to give her a minute to recover so I asked her about her family…where they lived currently…where they were from in Puerto Rico.  Her response almost knocked me out of my chair.  Her family is currently living in Chicago (I have family spread out in Chicago and Indiana).  Her extended family on her mom’s side lives in a small (I mean super small town) in Puerto Rico…the kinda small that says that if you meet someone who is from there, the chances are great that you are related somehow)…well as it turns out, my parents are both from this small town as well (they are NOT related, thank you very much:) and we’ve narrowed it down to where we must be related on my dad’s side since we share the same family name.  Get outta here!!  God’s got jokes indeed.  Now, it has become personal and I am fully invested.  We say our goodbyes and I promise to keep in touch…Oh, you bet I did!!  And so the weaving continues..

I got home and called my girlfriend who was busy preparing her message for a weekend retreat where she would be sharing her testimony.  She was excited at the prospect of my having met a potential family member and joined me in awe of that divine appointment.  She shared what she would be speaking on and as I listened I realized that her testimony was one that my newly acquired family member, “Mary,” needed to hear.  Rashayna would be able to speak to her and touch those areas that I would be unable to reach because she had the benefit of experience and had been to those places from which Mary was struggling to be freed.  Rashayna suggested that I invite Mary to the retreat (DUH, me) and I jumped on it!!  Remember Victoria the girl who called me to counsel Mary?  Well, I was reminded that she and Rashayna were former roommates and I later discovered that all three of these women worked for the same organization at one point.  Mary had heard of Rashayna.  Coincidence?  Nope…just part of that perfectly woven web.

I got “Mary’s” voicemail and left her a message inviting her to the retreat, telling her that I know that she’d be blessed by it.  I explained that I realized that it was super short notice and that she shouldn’t allow finances to affect her decision about going.  She would be covered.  I hung up the phone and prayed for her.  I knew the enemy was working overtime to keep her isolated.  I felt that she was probably regretting sharing all that she had with me and was most likely wishing that I’d just go away.  Rashayna and I began to pray for her.  Mary and I traded phone calls and we finally connected, she being prompted to trust me by Victoria (whose phone I was absolutely blowing up) trying to ensure that she get ahold of Mary since I couldn’t seem to get her to answer.  Persistence and I are one:)

I had to now brace myself for the retreat.  I wasn’t really too keen on going myself.  I didn’t want to process any pain in front of anyone…me and my hurt little self could handle it on our own as we usually did.  I knew this would not be the case now that Mary had agreed to join me.  I still wasn’t keen on going but now I had a purpose…oh silly me — who am I to think I have anything under control…the web was half way completed.

I couldn’t have been happier seeing Mary come out of the grocery store pulling her luggage, a look of uncertainty in her eye.  Her outward look matched mine; however, I wore mine on the inside…

I’m going to pause here and pick it up tomorrow.  I don’t want the length of this one to scare anyone away.  🙂

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.”  Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.  Than you will seek Me., inquire for, and require Me (as a vital necessity) and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found  by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity…”Jeremiah 29:11-14a AMP

The Saddest Day Ever…

It was 16 years ago today, October 16, 1996, that I received the saddest, most devastating news of my life.  I left my office that day en route to my first visit with my newly hired OBGYN and on my way out the door, my boss yelled out “don’t let them remove anything they shouldn’t.”   Those words would prove to be prophetic, unfortunately.  As I sat in my doctor’s office, the huge smile on my face was erased the minute she interrupted our conversation saying that she wanted to do an ultrasound in order to make sure my baby “had landed in the right place.”  I followed her to “that room” where after some probing (it seemed like forever), she gave me the grim news I somehow knew she would be delivering.  My pregnancy was an ectopic one and I would need to have it terminated as soon as possible…like right now…get to the hospital, I’ll meet you there.  Not exactly the “delivery” I had expected and had prayed for for so many years.  Seeing the look of desperation on my face she offered up some slim hope by saying she would send me across the hall for a second opinion, to a specialist who would do a dye test so that her findings could be confirmed or denied.  She left the room in order to contact the specialist and the hospital, leaving my husband and I reeling with this bit of information.  I was speechless and my husband was full of questions, one which I’ll never forget…”What’s the problem honey..can’t they just move it?”  Jan, the nurse walked in with the saddest face and the only thing I managed to say was “I left the bag of goodies in the dressing room” – (Just an hour before, I had giddily filled a bag with goodies from my doctor….”What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” lanolin oil, cocoa butter, etc.)  “You’ll be back for it, honey,” she said.  I gave the room one last sad look as I walked away on my way to further heartbreak.

Across the hall I was met with a doctor who almost seemed hopeful that the findings would be positive.  He administered the test and began calling his colleagues over saying my case was a textbook case.  Thanks Doc.  Really bad bedside manner….bad!!!  I dressed quietly trying to hide the tears as we made our way to the hospital.  I was prepped for surgery and I recall laying my hands on my tummy and thanking the Lord for the opportunity to hear the words I had always longed to hear…”Congratulations, your pregnant.”  The last thing I recall before the anesthesia kicked in were the words my boss spoke as I left the office earlier that day.

I woke up in recovery to news that my doctor was able to save my fallopian tube and that I would be spending the night (another first for me and not the hospital stay I had looked forward to).  To make a hideous matter even worse, I was given a bed in the maternity ward where I listened to mommies cooing and babies crying all night.  My nurse Lily mercifully made arrangements for me not to have a roommate.  Now, that would have sent me over the edge for sure.  She was a comfort to me that night and the Lord used her to offer healing words…”Next time you come back here you will leave with a baby.”  I responded, “From your lips to God’s ears.”  With that, she closed the door to keep the happy sounds out and I turned my back and cried myself to sleep.

My husband picked me up early the next day.  He had a busy day and I was happy to be alone.  I was stunned that life could go on for him, when life for me would never be normal.  Would it?  Would I ever climb out of this hole?  I crawled up the stairs to our bedroom screaming at God.  I was so mad at Him.  “What have I ever done to You, I cried…I’m a good girl…Why do You hate me so much?”  We had been married for 10 years and had been trying for that long to start a family.  We had undergone a battery of infertility tests and procedures five years earlier with no success and I had given up hope and purchased a dog.  Now here I was five years later certain that I’d never bear my own child only to have one dangled before my eyes like a carrot and for God to say SIKE !!!! to me was more than I could handle!!!  Note to the reader…I was sooooo not born again…talking crazy and acting crazier!!  I was tucked away in my bedroom being tormented as I saw report after report of everyone in Hollywood giving birth to babies…I tell you the Oprah show almost sent me running into the Boulevard when I heard an artist sing a song he had written for his firstborn son.  Oprah and her audience were in tears and I was on the floor in a fetal position.  I thank God for my husband who was patient as I cried every night; for my sister who knew the Lord intimately and interceded for me.  For my other family members who knew just to give me space…I thank God that He was merciful and as I healed physically and emotionally, I was unaware that I was being positioned to receive the greatest miracle of my life.

A week later (on October 23, 1996) I received a call from my doctor informing me that not only was one of the tests suspicious and I’d have to come in for a follow up, but that the “fetus” as she called it…baby to me…got stuck in the middle of my tube which told her there was blockage and the likelihood of a successful pregnancy was zero to none.  She ended the conversation by saying that I should see her friend, a fertility specialist…get pregnant and come back to her for a better outcome.  She sounded so confident…I slid down the wall and landed back on the floor in a heap of tears.

I have known sorrow…I’ve been well acquainted with pain….both physical and emotional, but none greater than on this day so many years ago.  The details are forever etched in my memory.  I have also known deep gratitude…such joy…amazing grace…such love from a God who healed my hurt and made me smile again and I am reminded of His faithfulness each day when I look into the eyes of my children…the ones He gave me the privilege of birthing (with no lab assistance…a real miracle) and raising.  At some point I will share the events leading up to the miracle births of our children.  Each character mentioned above was present for both miracles.  God is faithful and His word is true!

I’m praying for those women who, like me, walked away with empty arms…the ones longing to be called mommy…who turn down baby shower invitations because it hurts too much to see others celebrating what should be an event all women should celebrate if they choose to…those who forsake their friendships with women whom they were once close with, but with whom they now have nothing in common.  Praying that our God would show Himself strong on your behalf as He so graciously did for us.

Pray Before You Say Okay. Your Yes Can Add Stress!

How many times do we step ahead of God?  How many times do we make our plans and then include Him, expecting that He will go along with our plans because we think they are good?  I’ve been known to lead with my heart, having great intentions and believing my input would be a blessing only to end up repenting for taking the lead and relegating the Lord to the position of passenger on my road to confusion.

You know I have a story right?  I was drawn to a single mom because both of my beloved sisters raised their kids as single moms.  I witnessed the hard work, selflessness, stress and tears…lots of tears as they juggled their households, wearing every hat sometimes simultaneously.  This young mom appeared from nowhere with no family support whatsoever.  I chatted her up at a church picnic (she was a new member) and got carried away with kindness to the point where she was convinced that she had to move close to me and enroll her child at my kids’ school.  Gulp…okay.  I listened as she shared her challenges.  Tangled within the many, was a problem she had in that she had to be at her job very early and she was having a difficult time securing childcare that early for her child.  “Oh, no problem,” I offered.  “You can drop her off at my house on your way to work and I’ll take her.  No worries, especially since our kids will be going to the same school.”  Hmmm…Had I checked with the Lord?  Nope…Had I checked with my husband?  Nope…Did I have a check in my spirit?  YEP!  Rut-roh!!!

It took no time for her to find a place and enroll her daughter.  I should have known this would become a “special” case when she dropped by to see my booster seat and determined it was not safe enough for her daughter.  Hmm…”no problem, I understand.”  She arrived on a Monday morning with a booster seat (amazingly similar to mine) and her child fast asleep and donned in her pajamas with a request that I dress her when she wakes up.  “Oh, would you also give her a bite to eat..no nuts please and you don’t have to do her hair…just remove her scarf and she’s set.”  My face did not display what my mind was thinking!  Instead I said, “okay, no problem.”  That sent me racing to get three kids dressed, fed and watered.  Great way to begin a school year…NOT!

My friend, the boundary crosser, the one my heart bled for, the one whom I would have choked had it not been for the peace that surpasses all understanding guarding my heart and mind 🙂 became even more intrusive.  In no particular order, here were some of her greatest hits…

“I forgot her panties this morning.  Would you happen to have some new ones?”
“I didn’t have time to fix her a lunch.  Would you mind?”
“Today she’s reciting her first bible verse.  Would you please stay and record it for me?”
“Before she recites her verse, would you make sure her braids are away from her face except for the one in front on the left side.” – NO JOKE!!!
“Would you please pick her up after school for me and make sure she has her homework done before I pick her up?”
“She just won’t wake up in time for breakfast and she just loves yours anyway.  Please make sure she eats something.”

My friend, the heart breaker seemed to pick up when I was a little taken aback and on those days she would write me a “precious” note or on the more “special” days she would send me flowers.

There came a time when I had had enough.  I felt taken advantage of and I knew it wouldn’t end well if this continued.  I couldn’t be too angry at her.  I was a party to this mess and she did what she did because I gave her permission to mistake my kindness for weakness.  I went before the Lord in prayer first repenting for expecting Him to bless the mess I had created; I asked forgiveness for not having first prayed about my involvement and for not clearing this arrangement with my husband.  I felt unrest from day one and still I pushed through, clearly being given an opportunity to opt out but choosing to ignore that prompting, because by then I had given my word and the train had already pulled out of the station.  I began to pray to be released from this situation.  I prayed for this young mom and her daughter…for the Lord to direct her steps to a better situation.  I then created much needed boundaries.

I think the combination of prayer and boundaries created a quick break through.  It may have been one week later when the school offered her early morning daycare, with breakfast for her daughter at no extra charge (thank the Lord for mercy) and as it turned out it was easier for her to drop her daughter off  since she had to pass right by the school to get to my house.  Answered prayer…lesson learned!!!

I have recalled the lesson learned from this situation each time I want to make a move before first consulting with the Lord.  I’ve become a pro at saying no and I’ve mastered the art of asking before moving and doing so only when I’m at peace with a decision.  Oh, well, there was a second time…that one was a doozy and will be reserved for a later time…if He says yes.  Not feeling peace about sharing that one!  OY!

“Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know (do not distinguish and recognize, have knowledge of and understand).”  Jeremiah 33:3 Amplified

Be Encouraged!

This morning as I was praying, Philippians 1:6 kept coming up…”being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  I gladly took a break from laundry to post this bit of encouragement to all of you wounded warriors, the broken hearted, weary, disappointed, overwhelmed.  He’s the healer of the brokenhearted; He is your strength, your comforter, your joy, your peace.  Those of you who have fallen and are embarrassed, feeling judged or humiliated, please know that “The righteous may fall seven times and rise again.”  There is NOW (like right now) no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness!  Be encouraged!

I was once followed into the prayer room at church by a young adult who came in to sign up to bring a dish to an upcoming prayer meeting/fellowship.  I picked up that there was something else going on with her and when I probed, sadness spilled from her.  She had a lot going on and life was getting to her.  She ended by saying that she felt she had no purpose and stopped short of saying that she no longer wanted to live.  I spotted a doorstop steps away from where we were standing and I walked over to it, picked it up and brought it to her.  I shared that “everything has a purpose.  This doorstop was created with a purpose; this rug we are standing on has a purpose…how much more purpose do you have…having been created in His image and likeness; having the mind of Christ; having Him housed within your temple.  Please believe that you have purpose!”

And so do you…and so do I.  The trials and troubles we endure will not shake us from our firm foundation.  Do not grow weary in your well doing.  He is the healer of all things broken.   I encourage you to arise, take up your sword and continue to fight the good fight of faith.  Press on to the mark of your high calling and recognize that “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.  (He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.) Romans 11:29 AMP  The greater One resides on the inside of you prompting you, guiding you.  The angel of the Lord is encamped around you protecting you.  He is your sustainer, your healer, your provider, your protector, your redeemer, the lover of your soul and with long life He will satisfy you!   If the enemy could have ended your life, he would have done it already!  Be encouraged!

“Arise (from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you – rise to a new life)!  Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!” Isaiah 60:1 AMP  Lift up your eyes all around and see.

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